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Fighting To Speak Irish, Forced To Speak English

20 comments on “Fighting To Speak Irish, Forced To Speak English

  1. Just tried to sign up to comment on the IT article, but the software rejected the G. form of my name, presumably because it contained an ì (i-grave) ?

    Meanwhile the incident in the Dáil has been noted in Wales, along with the criticism in received from several TDs.

    One comment (Ioan Talfryn) reads, “According to the story simultaneous translation was available and therefore the meeting was inclusive. Had EK answered in English, that would have undermined the purpose of having an interpreter present. Unfortunately, I’ve been in too many meetings where Welsh speakers use English even though a translation service is provided, leaving the interpreter sitting idle. If a translation service is available there is not reason at all to speak English.”

    Another (Huw Davies), “… If human rights are so close to Mr Wallace’s heart, then he should accept the right of an Irishman to speak his own language in Ireland, or was Wallace simply adopting a fashionable political position, without wanting to face the problem in his own back yard? Just another two-faced shitter like the Labour politicians in this country [Wales] and the UK?”

    (Alun) “… Another narrow bigot, plenty of them in Wales too unfortunately.”

    (Twrch) “The Irish and Scots are just Englishmen with funny accents, only we in Wales have endured [as Celts]. This story proves that the Irish have won their independence but lost their identity. I’m tired of hearing about the excellence and exceptional qualities of the Irish, total rubbish, they sold out long ago. Rather we should be proud of our own ingenuity, our bravery and our persistence here in Wales. In truth, we are the only remaining Celtic land.”

    [After which the go on to argue about why Welsh has survived and whether it really has a future or whether this is just government hype etc.]


    • “The Irish and Scots are just Englishmen with funny accents…”

      Ouch! 😉 Unfortunately there is an element of truth in that. The jibe of “West British” and “North British” exists for a reason.


      • “The Irish and Scots are just Englishmen with funny accents…” nah! the English have a long and proud history. the Irish who want to be English are just pathetic. they are chimps at a tea party. And as i live on the South side of Dublin i unfortunately see alot of them around here. Oddly, i know two english people locally, and they both send their children to the gaelscoil (though maybe that’s how i know them!)


      • Well, at that point I thought I’d given enough of the comments, but to be fair in response to the claim that, “only we in Wales have resisted”, ‘Crebwyll’ came back with, “Well at least they [the Irish (and Scots?)] have been brave enough fight back. I don’t know how much valour there is left here any more. Could circumstance and isolation be the only reason for the survival of Welsh, rather than any kind of genuine opposition? Just you wait and see if anything at all remains in a few year’s time.”


        • They fought back, but what did they achieve?

          A country that’s not very different to its former oppressor both linguistically and culturally. And even more similar than during the occupation period, because there were more Irish speakers back then.

          Ireland is a living proof that it’s far easier to fix a broken economy than to restore lost culture and language.


          • It’s interesting that Ireland like Latvia managed to convert its immigrant traders and rulers for many centuries. It would be interesting to look into just when and how this process stopped working. (But I still think the Baltics were very lucky to escape the fate of Ireland).


          • Ireland is converting its immigrants just fine – the problem is that it’s converting them to English not Irish speakers. There is a strong social pressure to speak English – I would not even think of speaking Latvian to strangers in Ireland.


            • Yes, but you’re in the same situation you were in in Estonia. You can’t speak Irish/Estonian, so you use English since that’s the language most people learn these days so you can be fairly sure you’ll be understood. Even if everyone spoke Irish most of the time, it wouldn’t do you much good speaking Latvian, so English is the obvious fall-back, unless you were in an environment where for some reason speaking English was considered bad manners.

              A more interesting question perhaps is if Irish were widely used and heard, would you have picked up the more common words and phrases, or would you like most English speakers (why?) have simply blocked the language out?

              Indeed, would you even have come to Ireland at all if it hadn’t been English-speaking?


          • Jānis, something is amiss. i actually agree with you!!!! I’d better go and lie down.


      • North Munsterman

        Applying this logic would mean that Swedish-speaking Finns are not real Finns – which is, of course, utterly ridiculous as many of the most notable Finnish patriots and statesmen have been – and are – Swedish-speaking Finns, including some of the National heroes, including Carl Gustaf Mannerheim and Jean Sibelius, among many others.


    • Also in Wales.
      A patient from Wales who went to England for the NHS..Got a bill of over £1700 because he was “essentially a foreigner”..
      Nice to see the “union” working so well.


      • He didn’t have to pay it.
        And he was “technically” a foreigner because each of the UK’s countries has a separate health service.


        • When you actually read the article you see that this was just a cheap headline based on a bureaucratic ****-up. Ultimately the problem is the lash-up that goes for ‘devolution’ in the UK. If they’d had the foresight to develop a proper federal system then the UK might well have lasted another century at least. As it is they’ve created a messy, unbalanced muddle that is inherently unstable. Interesting times ahead 😉


  2. Tim Murphy

    It’s hard to argue about compulsory usage of English when it’s the mother tongue of more than 95% of those born in Ireland. And the author of this blog is hardly leading by example when it comes to using Irish!


    • Gu dearbh, ach chan eil Gaeilga (na hÉireann) aig a h-uile duine an seo. So to write only in Irish would surely be preaching to the converted? An interesting dilemma.


      • Or he could practice what he preaches and write in both languages.


  3. The difference between Ireland and Estonia is that most Estonians can speak English, but they prefer to speak Estonian among themselves and to long-term immigrants.
    Also everyone started conversations in Estonian and only switched to English when I told them that I’m a tourist.

    Ireland is different – English is not a fallback here – most people can’t communicate in any other language.

    A more interesting question perhaps is if Irish were widely used and heard, would you have picked up the more common words and phrases
    I don’t need translations for most common road signs any more 🙂
    Road signs and announcements on public transport are my only exposure to the language.

    Indeed, would you even have come to Ireland at all if it hadn’t been English-speaking?
    I would have learned Irish before coming here in that case.
    It’s ok not to speak the local language if you’re a tourist – if you plan to stay longer – you must learn it or leave.


    • ————–
      “Also everyone started conversations in Estonian and only switched to English when I told them that I’m a tourist.”

      And that’s probably the key to the whole issue. Once the language ceases to be the default and you only speak it with people you already know and whom you know understand it, then it will inevitably get slowly squeezed out. It ends up only being spoken in the home etc., literally behind closed doors. It becomes publicly invisible and is as good as dead already. The big issue for the Irish is how to reverse this process and ‘normalise’ the use of their language in public.

      [If Ireland had been Irish-speaking …]
      “I would have learned Irish before coming here in that case.”

      This made me wonder what resources would be available for foreigners to learn Irish, by comparison with Latvian or since it came up as a possible case, Estonian. Well I found a set of online dictionaries from almost anything to almost anything else. They’re not perfect but will generally work for individual words. Eg. :

      There’s even an Android app (I haven’t tried this!)

      Probably a bit dodgy on the grammar if you try to use them on whole passages though. Borrowing a sample of Irish from the end of Eileen Healy’s response below :

      “Tá aithne agam ar a lán daoine a bhfuil ach Béarla amháin acu agus léann siad blogs faoin teanga, litríocht agus cúrsaí reatha. Is tábhachtach é mar múscailt feasa leanaigí ar aghaidh ag léamh agus ag freagairt.”

      (I know of many people who only have English and yet they read blogs about the language, literature and current affairs. It is important so as to awaken knowledge go forward reading and answering. — At least that’s what I think it means.)

      We get :
      “Es zinu daudzus cilvēkus, kuriem ir tikai viena angļu un lasīt blogus par valodu, literatūru un aktualitātēm. Tas ir svarīgi, jo zināšanas izpausme lūdzu turpināt lasīšanu un reaģēt.”

      Endless fun to be had here then 🙂

      Also found a textbook for teaching Latvian to foreign older children. Very nicely done, maybe the Irish should rip it off?

      Click to access AtversimVartus_MacibuGramata.pdf


  4. Political oppression goes hand in hand with and includes other types When compulsory primary education was introduced by the government (British) in1830 many people were glad of the opportunity to learn English in a effort to gain employment when they emigrated. Examining the Census of 1911 one will see that many people over the age of50yrs (most of them exposed to this schooling) still spoken/wrote Irish, but their children(some of my grandparents) didn’t.
    Thankfully at this point some scholars and political reformers started a revival of Gaelic culture which probably was a form of urgently needed BASIC LIFE SUPPORT at the time and the CLINICAL intervention of the Easter Rising had it been successful would have “changed utterly” the sense of personal and national identity we would possess as well as what we spoke.
    I’m not a native Irish speaker but I’m trying to retrieve that which might not be my “mother tongue” but is the language of my ancestors only a couple of generations ago
    Appreciating that there may have been more of an impetus in learning English here in the 19thcentury than what there is in learning Irish today I’m still hopeful for more expanded and fluent usage
    Public notices play an important part not only in informing one of where the toilet is but serve to reinforce our familiarity with the word The word ” bagáiste” used on the public address on the trains was one that was not in my vocabulary until adulthood. !!! As a child the word baggage was rarely used in English because holidays involved a trip to our relation with a small”case” A “case”for bilingualism in
    public signage
    The linguistic skills of the blogger and retweeter of this article are evident if one checks prior posts
    The bowing and scraping before all things English that is still evident in many quarters is probably a big drawback in advancing our own language and culture and whereas it is nauseating it needs to be examined and addressed in order to overcome it’s toxic effect
    Myles Na gCopaleen has written satirical pieces on this in English and the ones I favour most as Gaeilge include “Na hAird Ó Thuaigh” le Pádraig Ua Maoileon
    Much correspondence by post comes to my home for my daughter who though not a native speaker has good working usage.Process of registraring with professional bodies , renewing her passport and taxing a recently purchased car have generated some heated exchange with public service employees eg postal worker who was annoyed that the name and address should be written in English at the back !!!
    Is féidir liom chuid den alt leadrânach seo a sheoladh as Gaeilge ach mar a dûirt Michelangelo “Táim fós ag foghlaim”
    Tá aithne agam ar alán daoine a bfhuil ach Béarla amhâin acu agus léann siad blogs faoin teanga , litríocht agus cúrsaí reatha. Is tábhachtach é mar muscailt feasa Leanaigí ar aghaidh ag lêamh agus ag freagairt


    • The question that keeps coming up for me is how people in Ireland, Scotland and Wales got hold of the idea that to speak English would require them to abandon their native language. Not only do many people in Europe learn English but retain their native language, it’s not at all uncommon around the world, even (perhaps especially) in parts of the ‘third world’, often in quite poor countries, for people to be bilingual or multilingual, and this is nothing new.

      People often blame the school system for beating the language out of pupils, but this was only possible with the consent of parents and society at large. Somehow they became convinced that to ‘get on’ the child didn’t just have to acquire English, but also to lose or at least despise their native heritage. All part of the ‘Celtic Cringe’. Fortunately other countries don’t seem to have an equivalent deep-seated self loathing.


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